A homeless man sleeps on the steps of McDonald’s. An empty coffee cup is used to collect change from passers by.
The Citadel in Gozo owes its roots to the late medieval era, but the hill has been settled since Neolithic times. After the Great Siege of 1565, the Knights set about re-fortifying it to provide refuge and defence against further attack. Until 1637, the Gozitan population was required by law to spend their nights within the Citadel for their own safety. In later, more peaceful times, this restriction was lifted and people settled below its walls, creating the prosperous town of Rabat, now known as Victoria.
This small city, one of the so-called Three Cities, stands on a narrow promontory jutting into Grand Harbour.
The land was fortified in 1551 by Grand Master Claude de la Sengle. The Maltese often use the area’s earlier name, L-Isla, meaning the island or perhaps short for `peninsula’. During the Great Siege of 1565, Senglea was protected by Fort St. Michael on its landward side and by Fort St. Angelo on the tip of Vittoriosa across the creek. The heroic role played by its people led Grand Master Jean de la Valette to give the city the title of Citta’ Invicta, the invincible city. Like its sister cities, Senglea suffered heavy damage during World War II. More than 75 percent of its buildings were destroyed. The parish church dedicated to the Nativity of the Madonna was rebuilt and retains its artistic heritage.
The city is noted for its superb harbour views across to Valletta from Safe Haven Gardens at Senglea Point. The stone vedette, known as Il-Gardjola, on the bastion-point served as a look-out post to guard the harbour entrance. The sculptured eye and ear above its windows are symbols of vigilance.
The sense of mystery inspired by the richly-painted dome interior at the Carmelite Church is deepened when one considers that no-one knows who actually designed it. Many attribute the French military engineer Mederico de Blondel des Croisettes, who built the Santa Maria di Gesù in Valletta. Nonetheless you are walking among secrets here in the first elliptically-designed Baroque church in Malta, where the Friars dutifully gather in turns for the Eucharist and the ‘Divine Office’.
With the building stripped of its precious silver and damask hangings during the French occupation of 1798-1799, Maltese rebels finally rose against their oppressors: the church was laid to siege while a young boy climbed the belfry to ring the bell as a call to arms, igniting Mdina’s revolt against French domination.
The Bridge Bar is open every Friday during the summer. Customers can sit outside on cushions on the steps and listen to Live-Jazz music.